Record Of The Week # 96

Courtney Marie Andrews – Old Flowers

It’s hard to believe that this is her fifth solo album; her recent output has been prolific. This Arizonan has now got a wide following in the UK. Touring, mainstream radio and broadsheet exposure has ensured she’s on the way to becoming a major act. Her talents lie in a blissful mellifluous voice and a singer songwriter approach to song composition, no holds barred personal stories and observational pieces that set the scene perfectly before diving in on the target. I cannot distance her from an early Joni Mitchell in sound, song structure and lyrical content. It’s intimidating company but I’m certain she’s worthy of this comparison.

She’s a fine acoustic guitarist and it’s over this instrument she sings 10 songs about her fractured relationship with a former beau. Miserable artists make some great records and in this raw, painful and dislocating setting she reveals the relationship over its nine years with little regard for discretion. 

She works with two other musicians  – multi instrumentalist Matthew Davidson and James Krivchenia on drums. Andrew Sarlo’s spacious yet, on occasion, atmospheric production helps the vocals whether single or double tracked to draw you in. “Burlap String” starts the album and we’re straight into the melancholy – “Some days are good, some are bad / Some days I want what we had / Some days I talk myself into a lie / I’ve grown cautious, I’ve grown up / I’m a skeptic of love / Don’t wanna lose what I might find”. “If I Told” has the intriguing pump organ: it’s an eerie yet elevating sound. Throughout the album the instrumentation never takes the melody: it’s Andrews’ voice that swoops and soars, and as if in a world of her own, she thinks out aloud. 

Whilst the accompaniment can be sparse the touches are memorable, such as the dashes of drum roll on “Carnival Dreams”. Andrews says the title track “Old Flowers” takes its sentiment from the fact that old flowers are beautiful but they’re dead and irretrievable. She ends with acceptance and affection on “Ships In The Night” – “I am sending you a postcard… may it leave you with closure and a little less doubt”. Tellingly she acknowledges many people on the album sleeve including “every friend who let me cry on their shoulder whilst writing these songs.”

I’m so often disappointed when an artist moves on to explore new sounds at the expense of discarding a winning formula. Fortunately Andrews hasn’t; this is ravishing listening.

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